Wednesday 3 October 2012

Geert Wilders: friend or foe?

Politics is so confusing.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen seems not to intervene in issuing a visa for Dutch politician GeertWilders. After delaying the decision since August (normally a visa application for Dutch citizens is processed within three days) he appears to allow Mr Wilders to enter the country after all. Mr Bowen described Wilders as a “far right politician”, an “extremist”.

What does “far right” mean?

Well, he gave a speech at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. That’s right-wing, I guess.

He also criticised the European Union for telling the Dutch to finance cash-strapped nations such as Greece and Spain during a recent election campaign video. That is reminiscent of Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe) with its own Euro-skeptic platform.

But wait – the FPOe has roots that go back to Nazi Germany. Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party on the other hand is against Islam which Wilders compared to Hitler’s totalitarianism.

So Austria’s FPOe is on the extreme right because it is echoing the Nazis, but Wilders is also on the extreme right because he is against anything that resembles a similar oppression.

But he doesn’t like the EU because it is pouring money into failing economies, does he? Yet the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany is now hearing legal challenges against the country’s role in recent bailouts, and that doesn’t seem to be a right-wing plot. What is at issue there sounds rather close to what Wilders expressed in an open letter to EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.

Greece’s socialists for that matter don’t like the EU’s austerity measures either, in Spain the Socialist Party lost votes because of the country’s involvement in the Iraq war and the election win of the conservatives there means Spain is now more firmly nestled within the EU.

Going through the speeches by Geert Wilders on his Weblog one gets the impression he is for free speech and the general liberalism Dutch society is renowned for. But of course, he is from the extreme right.

It does seem the label ‘right-wing’ has moved away from the historic-political background it used to be associated with to a generic term for simply ‘bad’. A description that relied on ascertainable detail has been replaced by context and becomes defined, if that is the right word, by the ambiguous moment of this or that experience. In other words, we are talking about post-modernism.

‘Right-wing’ then is a derogatory tag, nothing more.

Comparing contemporary Dutch law – which Mr Wilders supports - with its Islamic counterpart – which he doesn’t - becomes especially poignant when considering the ongoing attempts at abolishing the death penalty around the world. While Islamic countries differ in its application, capital punishment continues to exist in all Islamic jurisdictions and is strongly defended, as William Schabas explains in his article “Islam and the Death Penalty”.

All this leads to an intriguing question: could it be that the venom directed against Geert Wilders by politicians in countries like Australia points to a certain subliminal animosity held by the latter towards a liberalism which includes gay marriage, nude bathing, drug laws, euthanasia etc, all of which are not condoned by them but many are loath to discuss openly?

Could it be that they favour Islam with its rigid conservatism because it allows them to condemn such freedoms by proxy?